Edward Goodrich Acheson
Born March 9, 1856 - Died July 6, 1931
Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame
Edward Acheson's discovery of carborundum, a highly effective abrasive used in manufacturing, was an important influence in advancing the industrial era. Acheson worked with Thomas Edison before establishing his own lab, where he began experimenting in search of a good industrial abrasive. When he tried intensively heating a mixture of carbon and clay, he found that the mixture yielded silicon carbide, or carborundum. In 1926, the U.S. Patent Office named carborundum as one of the 22 patents most responsible for the industrial age. In the mid 1890s, Acheson also discovered that overheating carborundum produced almost pure graphite. Over his lifetime he received a total of 70 patents relating to abrasives, graphite products, reduction of oxides, and refractories. Acheson received many honors and awards including the Perkin Medal, the John Scott Medal, and an honorary Doctor of Science degree, as well as induction into the NIHF.
Edward Goodrich Acheson was born in Washington, Pennsylvania on March 9, 1856. He went to work at the age of sixteen in order to support his family after his father's death. He worked as on various railroad jobs and did experiments after hours. Acheson became interested in electricity and decided to work for a manufacturer of electrical equipment. He first applied to Edward Weston who made electroplating dynamos but was turned down.
Next, he applied with Edison by selling him a battery of his (Acheson's) own design, who put him to work on September 12, 1880 at his Menlo Park, New Jersey laboratory under John Kruesi. Acheson experimented on making a conducting carbon that Edison could use in his electric light bulbs. Edison recognized his inventive genius and advanced him quickly. As assistant chief engineer, Acheson spent 2½ years building generating plants and lamp factories in Europe, as well as installing electric lighting in such places as the Hotel de Ville in Antwerp and La Scala in Milan.
He returned to New York in 1884 and became superintendent of a plant manufacturing lamps that competed with those invented by Edison. Acheson soon was on his own experimenting and inventing many new and useful things but none were to make his fortune until he discovered silicon carbide, which he called Carborundum. It was found to be a better abrasive than any other known substance except diamond. In 1895 a plant was built in Niagara Falls and soon Carborundum was competitive with other abrasives.
Acheson continued to experiment and developed a process to make very pure graphite. The Acheson Graphite Co. was formed in 1899. In 1928 this company was merged with National Carbon Co. Acheson also developed colloidal graphite products. Commercial forms were called Oildag and Aquadag, and were manufactured by the Acheson Colloids Co., a company which still exists as Acheson Industries.
Acheson was a charter member of the American Electrochemical Society, founded in 1902 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the sixth president of the ECS, serving from 1908 to 1909. In 1928, Acheson provided funds to establish what is known as the Edward Goodrich Acheson Award, for contributions to the advancement of any of the objects, purposes, or activities of The Electrochemical Society, Inc. It is one of the highest honors the Society can bestow. Acheson himself was the first recipient, in 1929.
Website: The Electrochemical Society, "Past Presidents Page - Acheson" (http://www.electrochem.org/presidents/acheson.htm)
Website: chemheritage.org "Edward Goodrich Acheson" (http://www.chemheritage.org/EducationalServices/chemach/eei/ega.html)